“’Tis the season to be jolly.”
While the holidays have come and gone, Christmas songs still echo inside my head. This morning as I sang this joyful tune, the words magically morphed into “‘Tis the season to be busy.”
Sadly, these words rang all too true.
I’m already wrapped up in projects I put on hold for holiday preparations and festivities, I’ve launched new ones and I am doing my best to stick to New Year’s Resolutions. When I add these to the everyday activities of running my business and my life, the words “So much to do, so little time” play so loudly inside my head they drown out my “jolly.”
If I don’t start doing something differently soon, before I know it, days will turn into weeks, weeks into months, and bam! I’ll run head first into the next holiday season, without having found the perfect Valentine’s gift for that special guy I’ll have been too busy to have met.
Is there anything I can do to avoid this dire fate?
You bet there is!
I’m going to continue doing the activities that I wove into the hustle and bustle of the holidays that contributed to it being my most joyful and jolly ever.
And I invite you to join me.
Before I share with you what I’ll be doing, let’s visit Holiday’s Past. Then we’ll better understand how I got to be too busy to feel the feelings the holidays promised to bring.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, when I believed Santa was “making a list and checking it twice” to find out if I’d been naughty or nice, I was taught that some feelings were better than others, that feeling good was my reward for a job well done and feeling bad was my punishment for not being good enough.
And so began my pursuit of “good” feelings while avoiding “bad” ones.
But no matter how much I practiced loving and accepting myself exactly as I was while being loving and kind to others, it was impossible for me to be jolly all the time. Sometimes tears of sadness or grief would wash over me or anger would suddenly erupt with such a fury that I’m grateful it just was doors that got slammed.
For years, I wondered what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I stay in a good mood all the time? Hadn’t I practiced long and hard enough? Wasn’t feeling good all the time that supposed to be my reward for thinking good thoughts and doing good deeds?
Here’s what I’ve been discovering…
No matter how hard I try, or how good I am for how long, there’s no way for me to control my feelings so I feel the way I want all of the time.
Thanks to wise friends and my coach Jerry Stocking, my goal is no longer to try to do the impossible—only feel emotions I used to call good while judging and avoiding those I called bad. What a relief!
I’m also coming to trust that, just like the weather, eventually the moment and my mood always change—whether I want them to or not—sometimes to a feeling I prefer.
So, while I still have my preferences, I am more willing to welcome and be okay with whatever I’m feeling in any given moment.
Now I’ve got more time and energy to do things I enjoy—savor the smell of freshly cut grass, take long walks in the woods alone or with a friend, or sit quietly on my back porch sipping a cup of hot chocolate while enjoying the cool night air. How much richer my life is becoming!
What Are My Feelings Anyway?
They’re sensations that happen inside my body in response to the stories I tell myself, whether triggered by what I’m seeing and hearing in the moment, a memory or a possible future. The stories I tell myself, whether real or imagined, determine how I feel; how I feel influences the behaviors I consider, and whatever I end up doing impacts how I feel.
The Power of Telling New Stories.
So why not tell myself good stories all the time?
Easier said than done. My old habit is to put my attention on what I don’t want, what I lack or what’s too much for me to handle. Thoughts of too many things to do, people to see, and places to go with too little time and too little money drain my energy making it easier for those “bad” feelings to have their way with me.
Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude.
Going on “Rampages of Appreciation” is a powerful way I often shift my attention from lack to celebration—inspiring me to behave in ways that contribute to feelings I want to feel and share.
Sometimes I am able to remind myself that, in that moment on some level, all is well in my world and that I have so much to be grateful for. Instead of looking at my glass as half empty, I’m noticing how full my life is with blessings and miracles, wonderful people and opportunities. I’ve got my health, career, friends and family. I go to bed safe and warm and wake up to a day full of opportunities.
While your list may be different, we can all reflect on what we can focus on that helps you cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
Practice Random Acts of Loving Kindness.
I’m delightfully surprised by how quickly my spirits are uplifted when I do something nice for someone else. Here are a few things I’ll be doing all year round because of the smiles and joy they bring whether the recipient knows it was me or acknowledges what I’ve done:
I’ll hold open doors for people even if they aren’t carrying lots of packages.
I’ll call cashiers by name and ask my waiter or waitress for their name if they aren’t wearing a name tag. I’ll say thank you and leave a bigger tip than usual for exceptional service.
I’ll smile and silently say “I love you” and “May you be blessed” to everyone I see—no matter what they look like or how they’re behaving, especially when it’s tough to remember they’re doing the best they can and what they really want is love. I’ll also say to people what I would most like to hear if I were in their shoes.
This year I’m going give myself the best gift of all—without having to spend a dime or lots of time—moments of being more fully in my body perceiving what’s going on in and around me, thinking thoughts, telling stories, feeling feelings, and doing things that bring me more of the feelings I want to feel—Love, Light, Joy and Inner Peace!
I’m going to lead more with my heart by and I invite you to do the same! What a wonderful way to keep the true spirit of the holidays alive throughout the year.
Please pass on this message through your thoughts, words and deeds throughout this year and beyond. And if you’ve thought of a few I haven’t mentioned please share them in your comments.
This truly is the season to be jolly!
Author: Bonnie Dubrow
Editor: Emily Bartran / Assistant Editor: Ellie Cleary
Image: Hernán Piñera/Flickr